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353

Lucille Christian had come to stand beside him. "What
is it?" she had whispered.

He had told her that he did not know, and had drawn her
to him. She had shivered as she stood there against him,
watching the distant point of light in the darkness.

He had told her he did not know what the patch oŁ flame
on the horizon was; but he did know. He knew that it was
a burning tobacco barn. It was a barn belonging to some
man who, after receiving warnings, had not listed his crop
with the Association. He knew that a band of men from
some other locality, Band Number Six, he remembered, Mr,
Burden's band from over in Hunter County, had picked up
its guide, a mounted man waiting in the shadows by the
roadside at an appointed place, and had been led to that
spot where the flames now made that little centre of rosy
light against the black sky. And he knew that some other
night, soon, he himself would stand and watch men apply
the match and then would mount and ride away, the hoofs
of the horses drumming the frosty earth and the flames
climbing the sky behind him. He knew, because that was
the way it had already been.

There were burnings all fall. As soon as the tobacco in
the barns began to cure, the fires began. At first there were
only a few, then there were the letters. Then there were many
fires. Some men who received letters listed their crops im-
mediately with the Association. Others sat up night after
night, alone or with their sons or hands or tenants, guns
ready. They waited, lying behind piles of brush or in the
protection of a fencerow or behind a stone fence, while the
cold stiffened their fingers on the metal of a rifle or shotgun,
and their eyes blurred with sleep, and high in the empty, black,
metallic sky the steady stars seemed to be withdrawing into
a more and more incalculable distance. Sooner or later for
some of those who guarded their barns, there came the night
when out of confidence or weariness they relaxed their vigi-
lance and stayed ia their beds. And once or twice the night